Amid the 1.48 million layoffs that have occurred since the coronavirus landed in the U.S., Barry Alexander’s company, Aquiline Drones, for some, has become a viable solution to obtaining employment.
After a successful career as an airline pilot, this Black entrepreneur from St. Lucia went on to pioneer a crucial air ambulance service from the Caribbean to the US.
According to Market Watch, some freelance licensed drone pilots earn six-figure salaries annually flying drones for major companies and small businesses that use drones for everything from gathering thermal images of the ground to producing 3-D models of buildings. With Aquiline Drones recognized as the first U.S.-based, Black-owned drone and cloud technology enterprise, it is creating employment opportunities through its drone pilot training program. After completing the program and obtaining a license to operate a drone, graduates can start their own business, or build a career in the drone industry working for the Air Force, for example.
I spoke with Alexander recently about drones and more.
TNJ.com: What inspired you to become an airline pilot back in your native St. Lucia? Did you have a particular skill set that led you to that profession?
Barry Alexander: Back in St. Lucia as a kid I was simply fascinated with aircraft (both airplanes and helicopter) and spent a lot of time drawing them…especially helicopters. That allure continued well into me getting entrenched in aviation and participating in almost every facet of the industry. I can’t say that I recognize any particular skill set that influenced that direction but maybe being mechanically inclined might have played a pivotal role in me pursuing aviation. I am also a licensed aircraft maintenance technician, commercial helicopter pilot and Certified Flight Instructor. Today, owning a prominent drone solutions company feels somewhat like an extension of my aviation career and a total celebration of my continued interest in aircraft.
TNJ.com: Did you discover any misconceptions associated with being a pilot?
Barry Alexander: Absolutely. Most of the misconceptions I discovered are in line with those harbored by the public. Such include pilots being affluent from day one of a pilot’s career – a falsehood, pilots being universally savvy – false, pilots doing very little work and reaping substantial rewards – not quite, a pilot’s lifestyle being filled with gaiety/merriment/lofty vacationing/scandal/etc…not true. Pilots are generally frugal, conscientious about public perception and image, miss their families while on the road as much as people in other professions, punctual, deliberate and generally good citizens and neighbors.
TNJ.com: What about the work did you love the most, and what advice would you give someone considering becoming a pilot for a living?
Barry Alexander: Mainly the thrill of globe-trotting and the exposure to many and different cultures and cuisines! Whether dining in Hong Kong at the Temple Street night market in Mongkok having my favorite spicy crab dish, enjoying the bay-side view from the Oprah House in Sydney, Australia, traversing the water channels in Amsterdam, enjoying a good fish meal in Santiago, Chile, hopping over to see the Moai statues on Easter Island in the Pacific, the great seafood restaurants and dishes in Japan, hauling US military supplies from Rega, Latvia (in the Baltic States) to Bagram, Afghanistan, moving race cars and bikes from South America to Seville, Spain and around the world for Formula One, World Endurance Championship (WEC) and MGP racing, Moving high-dollar race horses, our esteemed and valued US troops, eating warm dates and sipping on Arabic coffee in the Kingdom of Bahrain, etc., there is never a shortage of excitement. I strongly encourage anyone desirous of a career in aviation – specifically as a pilot to consider doing it. I must also add that choosing the right airline that would provide that kind of global experience and exposure is key. I am very fortunate to have flown for one of the best airlines in the US (and the world), Atlas Air. That absolutely represents the pinnacle of my career in aviation – flying the Boeing 747 (aka jumbo jet) circling the globe continuously working with the best pilot and management group in the industry.
TNJ.com: From there, you launched an air ambulance service from the Caribbean to the US. Was there a particular void you were looking to fill in creating that service?
Barry Alexander: Absolutely. The Caribbean islands (including its citizens) are challenged for several reasons. The islands are geographically dislocated, have relatively small populations and limited resource bases with zero ability to scale. The implications are that of unmet health care for the average citizen due to lack of scalable health infrastructure and the lack of mobilization of crucial health and medical resources. This situation beckoned the need for a reliable and dedicated air transportation network that would allow for the scheduled and on-demand movement of patients (both ambulatory and stretcher cases), medical personnel administering treatment on different islands and medical maintenance personnel maintaining medical equipment on the different islands. The service was also designed to provide medical evacuation services from the Caribbean to the US for Caribbean nations and US citizens alike, needing advanced medical care and treatment in the US. The program was also designed (and crucial) to connecting specialized healthcare facilities (Centers of Excellence) across the Caribbean providing scheduled treatment to repeat-care patients.
TNJ.com: Tell me a bit about Aquiline Drones and its “Flight to the Future” Drone Pilot Training & Business Ownership Program.
Barry Alexander: Aquiline Drones (AD) is a highly progressive drone and cloud solutions enterprise. As one of the fastest growing drone companies in the US, we pride ourselves as being best-in-class industry stewards with a mission of enhancing society through the responsible and safe integration of drones into our everyday lives. There are a few key differences that set AD apart from the competition: 1) Its leadership; comprising veteran aviators from both civilian and military spaces – including retired Air Force Generals, senior cloud architects and engineers, software engineers, aerospace engineers, algorithmic mathematicians,savvy business people, etc. 2) Having a profound and diverse aviation history and involvement allows AD to approach drone technology differently as drones are essentially aircraft and aircraft fall within the ambit of aviation, which is squarely in AD’s DNA.
Our latest endeavor, Flight to the Future, is a nationwide workforce development initiative designed to re-energize the economy. AD’s goal is to add millions on new and high-paying jobs to the economy in an exciting technology-driven industry. Flight to the Future is available to everyone interested in re-tooling or starting a new and rewarding career. For under $1,000, individuals will be trained and certified as drone pilots, will receive free business registration and administrative services, will get free drone insurance for one year, will receive a free cloud subscription to AD’s proprietary cloud for one year and be supplied with high-paying drone job opportunities post-graduation. That is a $5,000 value and a limited time offer so prospective applicants are encouraged to sign up today at: adflight.to/future asap. Flight to the Future is also an avenue where businesses and corporations of any size can give back to the communities (part of their corporate responsibility as good corporate citizens) in which they thrive by simply donating or sponsoring enrollments (of any amount) for unemployed individuals through the same website adflight.to/future.
TNJ.com: What is the time frame for the training to become a fully licensed drone pilot?
Barry Alexander: The average time frame is four to six weeks depending on the individual’s time commitment to course completion starting September 1st, 2020.
TNJ.com: With all the workplace layoffs and closures of small businesses due to COVID-19, do you see this as a viable career option that can get people back to work?
Barry Alexander: We see this as the absolute best option and opportunity for getting people back to work based on the total value of program ($5,000) to what it cost an individual ($999) to enroll. Additionally, that is the only out-of-pocket cost to the individual as financing is available to acquire drone hardware (manufactured by AD) to perform the jobs supplied by AD. It’s really a no-brainer! Everything about the program can be found via aquilinedrones.com/flight-to-the-future or adflight.to/future. Contact with the program can be made via: firstname.lastname@example.org